I believe that as humans we are constantly changing, never really finished growing mentally, spiritually, emotionally etc. Our growth can end earlier if we shut the door to acknowledging it, but life changes us. The circumstances of our lives, impact us in small or monumental ways depending on the occasion and setting. I personally know that my time in Germany has left me, a changed person in certain ways. I will not elaborate too much on that, but I know that I have grown more confident and have relearned how to embrace and love time spent alone. I have also relearned a very important lesson and that is, how to put my phone down, not only physically but mentally, letting go of the worry that I may be missing somehow while away from it.
I found the attachment to one’s cellphone to be less in Europe than in the United States. This is changing, but the intense need that one feels to be connected both to the physical and virtual world within the same moment is far greater still in the United States than here. I do hope that it will not increase greatly here in Europe, as the attachment and need to be so virtually connected that people feel in the United States is a loss not a benefit to our social interaction and well-being.
While here in Germany I still had my iPhone fully functioning, internet and all. I could take it with me wherever I went and escape into the virtual world, that we all seem to now also have, if I felt the need. The beautiful thing is that with time, while I was here, I stepped away from those behaviors and stepped into new ones. A few years ago, my old iPhone was stolen outside of the gym that I went to. I remember feeling like a part of me had been stolen, truly, as silly as it sounds now, that is how I felt. I was so upset and felt rather uncomfortable not knowing what was taking place on Facebook, and not being able to react to text messages right away (etc). In a way I think that our love for technology, (for some, I realize that I am making general statements, and that what I say does not necessarily apply to all) has transformed into an obsession with technology.
I used to almost always be on my phone, talking or texting while walking. On public transportation I would text, send emails, work on reports, etc. all from my iPhone. While there is great convenience in this, I feel that I used my iPhone too much. There were times that I realize now, that I was physically present in a place and moment, but not mentally and emotionally because I was trying to be in two places at once and really, that does not work well.
At my home university in the States, I remember walking into a classroom for the first time ready to meet new people, only to find them consumed with interest in their iPhones, iPads, or laptops. When I attempted at creating conversation, it felt as though I was disturbing them and the far more important things that they had to attend to such as Facebook, Twitter, amazon shopping etc. These things can of course be fun and do serve a purpose too, but we need to put them down sometimes. In Germany I walked into the classrooms to find all the other American students chatting away, quickly getting to know one another, making memories all the while. I learned to “look up” literally from my phone and take part wholly in every thing around me, truly being in the moment with everyone else there. It was and is a wonderful feeling!
One thing that has changed about me, my connection to my cellphone and technology. I greatly enjoy using them, the escape they can provide, the information that is so readily available through these devices now and the ease of communication that they gift us with no matter how far away our family and friends are, but I believe that there is a time and place for their use. I also greatly enjoy being in the moment,100%, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I enjoy meeting people that I may have otherwise walked past. I enjoy random unexpected encounters and conversations that lead to great discussions and adventures. This is a changed behavior that I want to and plan to carry back to the United States with me. This is a behavior that I encourage us all to look at, evaluate and explore.
My dad, last week, in a regular weekly email that he sends to his congregation and anyone interested shared this important video:
It is a well-made video that I strongly encourage everyone to take a moment to watch. The message is true and clear. Look up, it is amazing what you will see. We only have one life, one incredible and finite life, why not experience all that it has to offer in the physical world more so than the virtual world because that is where we truly exist anyways.